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Impact of 6th assignment in Wausau unclear


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) – A budget-saving measure the Wausau school board put in place last year has helped preserve some high school classes. But officials say it is too early to measure the true impact of having some teachers take on a 6th assignment.

Most teachers teach five classes and have one or two supervision and prep periods. Teachers with 6th assignments do not have any supervision duties.

Wausau has used a 6th assignment for at least 10 years, said education director Karen Wendorf-Heldt. The option drew more attention during last year's budget talks when the school board used the 6th assignment to preserve classes that may have been cut because the district would not replace teachers who retired or resigned.

The number of teachers with a 6th assignment rose at both city high school between 2009-2010 and the current school year. It nearly doubled from six to 11 at Wausau East High School and more than quadrupled at Wausau West High School – from five to 21.

High school principals are sensitive to assigning a 6th class to teachers if it is a subject that requires another prep period, said service coordinator of education Thom Hahn.

Wendorf-Heldt said the trade off of picking up a 6th assignment is that there are fewer teachers for supervision duties in school resource centers. But she said teachers are still available to help with make up assignments or provide individual attention to students.

Teachers have offered mixed reaction to the 6th assignments, according to district administrators. The reaction ranges from support to concerns that the 6th assignment may become a long-term budget fix. WSAU News was unable to independently speak with any teachers for this story.

Wendorf-Heldt and Hahn presented their preliminary findings to the school board this month. They will present a final report on the impact later this spring.